Almayass – An Authentic Lebanese Armenian Dining Experience
Flatiron District Eatery
Written by: Jon Haggins
Photos: Maybelle Webster
If you’re looking for an authentic dining experience, you must visit Almayass Restaurant in the Flatiron District of Manhattan. As we entered, I felt as if I was visiting a gallery instead of a restaurant. The tables are elegantly dressed and the chairs remind me of a decorative showroom. Bold chandeliers hang from the ceiling. There are a number of large decorative sconces along the wall as well as colorful paintings that represent the Lebanese/Armenian heritage. For example the pomegranate tree is a symbol of prosperity and the large collage painting is a Day in Yerevan. The paintings are from Armenian artists.
Almayass is divided into two parts: one side has a lounge and private dining room with a large bar. The private dining room can accommodate 45 seated. The main dining room sits on the other side of the establishment. Mario Arakelian, the owner told me, “Almayass is a family owned restaurant that my father-in-law and mother-in-law started twenty years ago. We offer family dining in a warm friendly environment. We want everyone to feel as if they have come to our home. My mother-in-law designed the interior with Armenian flair. Our goal is to create a memorable experience and to bring Lebanese cuisine to New York. Although we have five other restaurants in Beirut, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, Riyadh and Qatar, we feel that New York is also very special. We are a service-oriented establishment. I worked with Four Seasons Hotel for ten years in Beverly Hills, Michigan and London; therefore I understand the service business and the attention to guests. We have many repeat guests.”
Tatiana, our waitress handed us menus that reflect the elegance of the restaurant. The cover of the menu is made of lacquered and mitered maple wood. The interior is made of luxurious brown leather. Now what could be more elegant than that? We started with Tabbouleh salad comprised of fine chopped parsley, vine tomato, onion and crushed wheat served with fresh lemon and olive oil dressing ($14). What I love most about each dish is its simplicity and freshness. The Fattoush is a dish of vine tomato, fresh mint, arugula, Persian cucumber, red radish, sumac, parsley and fried pita bread ($15). Nothing I love more than fresh pita bread. I compliment the restaurant for the ample size of each dish and its freshness and appeal to the eye. What is Lebanese without Hummus, a chickpea dish with sesame paste, garlic and lemon ($9)? To whet our appetite and compliment our dinner, we ordered a bottle of Zorah red wine arena noir ($84 for the bottle or $21 per glass). It was a perfect choice with a full body. The cold appetizers included Moutabbal, a mashed charbroiled eggplant, fresh lemon, sesame paste and garlic ($11). It was a sensational dish. The Dolma is an Italian eggplant that’s stuffed with rice, tomato olive oil and lemon with a yogurt topping ($14). Next, Mouhammara, a spicy spread made with crushed walnut, red bell pepper paste and pomegranate molasses ($13). Also, Kebbe Naye Almayass is a spiced, fresh tartar beef with crushed wheat, onion and parsley ($18). And lastly Lentil Kafta, a lentil cooked with crushed wheat, onion and parsley ($9).
The Hot appetizers include Basterma or Soujouk Almayass, an Armenian pastrami or Armenian sausage canapé topped with fried quail eggs. It was absolutely lovely ($15). Also, the Bereg Cheese is made with fried homemade pastry filled with three cheeses ($12). Then the Falafel, a deep friend mixture of ground chickpeas and fava beans with a tahini based sauce ($11). Anther appetizer is the Mantee Traditional beef, oven baked artisan made, boat shape dough stuffed with beef, garlic and a yogurt sauce on the side ($22). Followed by Kebbe Kras, a fried mixture of minced beef and crushed wheat, stuffed with minced beef pine nuts and chopped onion ($14).
For our entré we shared sweet and sour charbroiled, seasoned minced beef topped with sweet and sour cherry sauce ($32) The presentation was unbelievable. What a fabulous combination. You can’t go to a Lebanese restaurant without sharing a plate of lamb chops. The delicious Amayass charbroiled Australian lamb is served with fresh brussel sprouts. We could barely move after so many divine dishes with great flavors to amuse our appetite. For the end of the evening we shared Ossmalieh Almayass, a golden crispy sweet vermicelli, filled with ashta, topped with traditional floss halva. It is their version of cotton candy ($12) and served with simple syrup. We finished the evening with a dish of Baklava with layers of filo pastry filled with chopped nuts and sweetened with syrup ($8). To keep things a little simple we had a large bowl of fresh strawberries resting on a bed of ice and a warm five- year old Ararat aged brandy. Our dining experience was one of the finest we’ve had in NYC. It was colorful, unique and a feast for the eye.
24 East 21st Street
New York City 10010